Sleep and wakefulness are controlled by different signals in the brain, called neurotransmitters. Other components, such as foods and medicines change the ratio between those signals. This ratio makes the difference when we feel alert or drowsy, as well as how good our sleep is. Certain parts of the brain parts of the brain are stimulated by caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and drugs, as well as by diet pills and decongestants causing insomnia, or an inability to sleep. It is well know that most antidepressants suppress REM sleep. It is also know that heavy smokers often sleep very lightly with reduced amounts of REM sleep. Research shows that heavy smokers have tendency to wake up after 3 or 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal. A so-called “night cap” is when people suffering from insomnia try to solve their sleep problems with alcohol. While alcohol initially help people fall into light sleep, it also deplete them of REM sleep and eventually from the deeper, more resting stages of sleep. Keeping them in the lighter stages of sleep, people can be awakened easily.
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
An average requirement for a healthy sleep is different for each person and usually depends on many factors, such as age gender, marital status, etc.
The following table will demonstrate amount of daily sleep hours required:
- 16 hours a day for infants
- 9 hours for teenagers a night appears to be the best amount of sleep
- 7 to 8 hours of sleep for most adults
- 5 to 10 hours of sleep each day although some people may need.
In the first three months of pregnancy women often need several extra hours of sleep than usual. It is a common knowledge that the amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Reducing regular sleep hours creates a “sleep debt”. Our body, eventually, will demand that this debt should be repaid. We don’t seem to adapt ourselves to getting less sleep than we need. For those who are interested, there is a know methods of training yourself for reducing your regular sleep as long as 4 hours a night. For majority of people who get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, however, our reaction time, judgment, an ability for logical thinking, problem solving, and other functions are still affected.
The older people become, the lighter their sleep is, with shorter time periods. Generally, they need roughly the same amount of sleep as they used to have in their early adulthood. It has been observed that a half of all population over 65 have frequent sleeping problems, such as insomnia. Deep sleep stages in majority of elderly people often become very short or, sometimes, stop completely. Professional opinion of sleep researches tell us that it may well be a normal course of aging. It may also be a result of different medical problems, commonly present in elderly people. It could also be produced by medications and other treatments for those problems.
It has been noticed that if you haven’t had enough sleep then you feel drowsy during the day. It usually happens during meetings, in front of the computer, or even during some other boring activities.
Conduct the following test on yourself and you will be able to understand whether or not you have severe sleep deprivation:
- Falling asleep within 5 minutes of lying down tells you that you have a sleep problem or even a sleep disorder.
- Micro-sleeps, or very brief episodes of sleep during the day
- A sensation that you do not remember your last thought
- Slowing your thinking ability to the level when you lose your mathematical ability
It is quite common that people are not aware that they are having micro-sleeps. Sleep deprivation is widely spread in modern society (manufacturing, engineering, marketing, sales, etc.) that what is really abnormal sleepiness (sleep deprivation or sleep disorders) is now almost the norm.
Properly conducted clinical studies revealed how dangerous sleep deprivation might be.
Sleep-deprived people who are tested by using a driving simulator or with the help of a hand-eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse than those who are intoxicated. Sleep deprivation also magnifies alcohol’s effects on the body, so a fatigued person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well-rested.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths each year. Since drowsiness is the brain’s last step before falling asleep, driving while drowsy can “and often does” lead to disaster. Over 25,000 of them are directly related to falling behind thThe National Sleep Foundatione wheels. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation. The National Sleep Foundation says that if you have trouble keeping your eyes focused, if you can’t stop yawning, or if you can’t remember driving the last few miles, you are probably too drowsy to drive safely.